"Scores of armed political groups in most regions of the world continued to recruit children, force them into combat, train them to use explosives and weapons, and subject them to rape, violence, hard labour and other forms of exploitation," said the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers.

The coalition, which regards children as being under 18, studied more than 20 countries and territories where armed hostilities occurred between March 2002 and March 2004.

Despite highlighting a number of countries where children are THestill used in conflicts, it said much had been achieved in the last three years in establishing a legal framework for protecting children.

By August 2004, 77 states had signed an optional UN protocol setting 18 as the minimum age for the direct participation in hostilities, it said on Wednesday.

The United States ratified the protocol in December 2002, but at least 62 soldiers under the age of 18 participated in US military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the report.

Named and shamed

The coalition urged the UN Security Council to ensure it did not just "name and shame" countries using child soldiers, but also took action to enforce its demands to end child-soldier use.

"If governments and armed groups perceive its resolutions as empty rhetoric, then the progress made in international accountability will be lost," it said.

Between 2001 and 2004, children were involved in armed hostilities in more than 20 countries.

"Scores of armed political groups in most regions of the world continued to recruit children, force them into combat, train them to use explosives and weapons, and subject them to rape, violence, hard labour and other forms of exploitation"

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

The report listed the countries as Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea (DRC), India, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Indonesia, Liberia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, the Russian Federation, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.

Governments using child soldiers were listed as: Burundi, DRC, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Myanmar, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda and the US.

Some governments, like Colombia, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe did not directly recruit children but backed groups which used children to fight and kill, the report said.

For its global survey on child soldiers, the coalition used information from UN Children's Fund, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Save the Children among other rights groups.